Bush edicts in Obama's sights

Drilling expansion, stem-cell research limits could get the ax

November 10, 2008|By Jeff Zeleny | Jeff Zeleny,New York Times News Service

CHICAGO - President-elect Barack Obama is poised to move swiftly to reverse actions that President Bush took using executive authority, and his transition team is reviewing limits on stem cell research and the expansion of oil and gas drilling, among other issues, members of the team said yesterday.

While Obama prepared to make his first post-election visit to the White House today, his advisers were compiling a list of policies that could be reversed by the executive powers of the new president. The assessment is under way, aides said, but a full list of policies to be overturned will not be announced by Obama until he confers with new members of his Cabinet.

"There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," John Podesta, a top transition leader, said yesterday. "He feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set."

Throughout his presidency, Bush has made liberal use of his executive authority, using it to put his stamp on a range of hot-button policy issues.

In January 2001, on his first full day in office, Bush reinstated the so-called global gag rule, initiated during the Reagan administration and overturned by President Bill Clinton, which prohibited taxpayer dollars from being given to international family planning groups that perform abortions and provide abortion counseling. After Obama's victory last week, the Center for Reproductive Rights delivered a 23-page memo to his transition team, calling for "bold policy change," including a repeal of the gag rule.

Yesterday, in a sign that the presidential campaign had definitively ended and that the fast-forming administration was suddenly the focal point, the faces of Obama's new team appeared across the spectrum of Sunday talk shows, a changing of the guard more than two months before he officially assumes power.

Obama's new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said that the federal government should provide aid to the automobile industry to help the major automakers and their suppliers survive the financial crisis. General Motors, the largest American automaker, said last week that it has been losing more than $2 billion a month from its cash cushion recently and could face bankruptcy.

Emanuel told CBS' Face the Nation that the industry was "an essential part of the economy," echoing remarks that Obama made at his first post-election news conference last week.

Reiterating Obama's points, Emanuel said that the Bush administration should accelerate $25 billion in federal loans provided by a recent law to help automakers and suppliers retool to build more energy-efficient vehicles. He said that the Bush administration has power to do more and that Obama's economic team - once he chooses it - will devise options for helping the industry in ways that have the added benefit of being "part of an energy policy, going forward, where America is less dependent on foreign oil."

Podesta, who for months has been planning for the transition, said in an appearance on Fox News Sunday that Obama was considering Democrats, Republicans and independents for key Cabinet positions. While previous presidents have not announced such appointments until December, he suggested that officials tasked with the economy, national security, health care and energy portfolios could be named sooner.

"I think he intends to move very quickly," Podesta said. "And you know, he's beaten a lot of records during the course of the campaign."

Obama does not intend to name any Cabinet officials this week, aides said Sunday, but is poised to announce additional White House senior staff decisions as early as tomorrow as he works to begin building his administration from the Oval Office to other positions inside the West Wing and other parts of the government.

The executive orders of the Bush administration are among the many items that are being reviewed by the new Obama team. The transition operation that was set up in August, even before Obama was formally nominated at the Democratic convention, included a plan to scrutinize the policies that could be reversed through the power of an executive order of the new president.

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